The Cambridge Police Department issued a citizen’s alert last week warning that thieves in the area have used devices called skimmers, which attach to ATMs, to gain access to personal bank account information. According to the alert, thieves gained access to accounts on at least seven occasions between Nov. 2013 and Jan. 2014.
A skimmer is a disguised mechanical device fitted over the card reader of an ATM. When a customer inserts a bank card, the skimmer records the card number as it enters the card reader. Some skimmers also include cameras, which film the machine’s keypad as the customer enters his or her PIN.
Jeremy Warnick, the director of communications and media relations for the department, said that some skimmers were also placed over the outdoor card readers that some banks use to allow customers to enter bank lobbies or ATM foyers after hours.
The department would not specify which banks or ATMs were affected nor did the April 4 citizen's alert.
The police alert stated that thieves used the card numbers they acquired from skimmers around Cambridge to extract “an undisclosed amount of cash from the compromised accounts in New York City.”
Customers who were affected noticed the decrease in money in their accounts and notified the bank, Warnick wrote in an email. Depending on their protection and insurance policies, some banks may reimburse customers for the amount of money stolen from their accounts.
According to the police report, Cambridge police are working to inform local banks and regional bank managers about ATM schemes, and patrol officers are placing special attention on ATMs after bank hours.
Warnick also noted that the CPD is “working with federal agents on an investigation.”
The FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division declined to comment on the issue. The Harvard University Police Department could not be reached for comment for this story.
The Citizen’s Alert urged citizens to take several precautions. According to the alert, customers should “be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, damaged, or if you notice scratches or tape residue,” cover the keypad when entering a PIN, and use an indoor ATM away from tourist areas when possible. Citizens suspicious of ATM fraud should contact the Cabridge police.